Prince Edward Island grower-shippers likely won’t export as many potatoes to the Caribbean and other markets this year.

Greg Donald, general manager of the Charlottetown-based Prince Edward Island Potato Board, agreed that a more normal European crop will limit the ability of PEI grower-shippers to export in 2011-12.

“Export volumes were up significantly last year because of European crop losses and drought in Russia,” he said.

“A lot more went to the Caribbean. We expect that not to be there this year.”

PEI growers used to ship a considerable number of spuds to Venezuela, said Brian Beaton, potato coordinator for the Charlottetown-based Prince Edward Island of Agriculture.

That ended with the political turmoil surrounding the ascendancy of the country’s president, Hugo Chavez, but Beaton is hopeful that talks could restore some of the island’s trade connections in the country.

PEI’s rival across the Atlantic will likely have the upper hand on shipments down south in 2011-12, said Gary Linkletter, president and co-owner of Summerside-based Linkletter Farms Ltd.

“Europe has a very big, very cheap crop, and they do a lot of Caribbean business,” he said.

In addition, Russia has a much more normal crop than last year, Linkletter said.

Short crops in Western Europe and Russia in 2010 gave a big boost to PEI’s exports last season.

That said, the Canadian dollar has fallen recently, which increases the attraction of exports — particularly to the U.S. Northeast, given a smaller crop in Maine.

“It makes us competitive in the U.S.,” he said.

The other factor to take into consideration is significant crop losses in Ontario and New Brunswick. PEI growers won’t have to rely as much on exports this season, given the dearth of product in Canada, Linkletter said.